There are 3 things that always stick out in my mind when it comes to marijuana:
700,000 Americans per year, $10 Billion dollars per year and, a television program I
happened to catch back in 1975 (I believe it was called The New Republic) featuring
William F. Buckley.
For those who don't remember him, Buckley has always been considered to be extremely
conservative. This is a paraphrasing of what he said:
The war on drugs is a complete failure, and the money spent on it would be better used
to educate people on the dangers of the drugs themselves, and treatment for those who
He went on to say that the greatest harm caused by the use of marijuana was the
sociological impact it had by causing those people who use marijuana to withdraw from
civic involvement out of their fear of being exposed, publicly humiliated and
criminalized. People who would otherwise be considered good citizens were being forced
into the closet.
The 700,000 number? That's the number of Americans every year who get tickets or are
arrested for some kind of involvement in the use of marijuana, more than 80% of whom were
guilty of nothing more than simple possession. $10 billion dollars is the amount of money
spent every year to thwart them in obtaining marijuana.
Law enforcement officers speak of court jams from cases, enforcement time interfering
with more important matters... like Homeland Security.
I'm not going to play the game of comparing alcohol to marijuana as if having a
discussion about which is better or worse. Again, I don't really believe either is
"good" except for the beneficial relaxing effects that either can have.
Everybody has their way of relaxing.
The only comment I'll make in that way is to say that when a person drinks too much
alcohol, there is an incredible mountain of evidence showing that the chance of violent
behavior - physically or verbally abusive - goes up substantially.
When people smoke marijuana, they smile a lot and eat a lot of junk food, then fall
asleep. That's a scientific fact. Otherwise, on an individual basis, alcohol
and marijuana elicit the same negative behaviors and reactions... they might make an
individual feel good or ill, give you headaches, cloud your thinking... on a cause and
effect basis, on the surface, there's not much difference (except that marijuana will not
cause you to become violent, abusive or obnoxious).
If you asked me whether, if I had to make a choice of which to be legal or illegal, I
would have to select marijuana as the legal social drug based on many facts. And, of
course, a little aversion to alcohol. At the same time, I've enjoyed making a few gallons
of wine every few years - as a hobby.
The greatest fact, though, that compels me to speak out on this issue has to do with
the truth... or at least, setting the record straight about something that has been
exploited for political reasons.
Here's the story I want to tell you.
Back in what must have been about 1967, Scotts Valley Elementary School (in Santa Cruz
County, Ca.) had its own drug-abuse prevention program going on.
People think the use of drugs, flower children, hippies and communes and all that
counter-culture stuff started in San Francisco in the Haight-Ashbury district, but the
truth is it began in the hills of Santa Cruz, just a few miles away from where I lived, up
around Boulder Creek and Ben Lomond. It's where the famed "electric kool-aid acid
tests" were done under the control of Stanford Professor Timothy Leary.
So, there was a legitimate drug problem occurring that included people hallucinating on
LSD and taking their own lives, and heroine was killing people either by abuse or
"cutting" its potency with things like arsenic and powdered milk. If there
hadn't been a Gene Dawson opening Mama Dawson's Bazaar as a way to support a non-profit
drug counseling and assistance center, it would have been a whole lot worse (He deserves
an incredible amount of credit.)
One day, at Scotts Valley Elementary School, the sheriff's department came in and
showed us a film. It was the film where Sonny Bono (former congressman and previously,
half of the entertainment team Sonny & Cher) got on camera and told you if you smoked
marijuana, you would go insane, you'd hallucinate in the mirror and kill yourself out of
pure paranoia. It scared the heck out of me.
Then, they laid out a small container with marijuana in it, and lit it on fire so that
we could smell it. Our instruction was that if we ever smelled that at a party, we
were supposed to leave immediately, then call the police. They told us that even the smell
of it would make us sick to our stomachs and give us headaches.
Now, I was one of those kids who, for some reason, was not the rebellious type. I
remember approaching one of the officers afterward and telling him that I would do as they
said, and that the smell of the smoke did, indeed smell bad, and made me ill. He just
looked at me funny. The fact that it was my uncle made an even greater impression on
In retrospect, given the fact that I have a birth defect that actually makes it
impossible for me to smell anything, I'd have to say they did a pretty good job of
convincing me. Some would call it brain-washing.
When I got into high school at Soquel High, I became involved in the theater classes
and acting. After the first play I was in, I was invited to a cast party. And, I
noticed people smoking marijuana. So, I picked up the phone and began dialing the police.
One of the other guys noticed me on the phone, but knew I was catching a ride home with
someone else later, and asked me what I was doing. I told him "There are people
here smoking marijuana. I'm calling the police."
He immediately hung up the phone and handed me a beer, and said, "I know what you
mean". Then he invited me out to his car to talk.
About an hour later, I guess he figured I had calmed down and that I trusted him. He
pulled a joint out of the pocket of his coat. I looked at him, thought about all the crazy
things that people do while under the influence of marijuana, and I got scared. So I
jumped out of the car, went back into the house, and began to dial the police again.
Next thing I knew, this cute girl was asking me to dance, and I was coaxed into
participating in a chugging contest, after which I was very neatly propped up on the
driveway out front where I passed out. They took me home the next morning.
What was most difficult about the situation was that these people were my friends.
In many ways, we were like a family of young people taking care of each other. I
trusted them. But, I was afraid of getting involved with drugs.
For about 6 weeks, a number of them would tell me things like "no matter what,
we're going to get you to smoke it." I was under some serious pressure to give in.
Finally, one night, about 6 of them sort of surrounded me and insisted that I try it. I
said no over and over. Then, one of the guys said "You know Chuck, I don't
really care if you smoke it or not. I just don't want you to call the police. So, think
about it, have I ever lied to you or done anything to hurt you?"
I confirmed that he hadn't. And then I tried it. About all that happened is that I
giggled for about a half an hour, got really hungry, and my drama teacher wanted to know
why I was grinning like a Cheshire cat.
Now, I'll admit that I smoked it occasionally in my high school days - at Soquel and
Arcata High School in Humboldt Country, Ca. - but not often. If anything, I'd go to
parties and help people who had overdosed or became depressed because of their use of
amphetamines. And, I learned my lesson by nearly failing a Spanish Final one day when I
thought I had aced it. After 10 years of Spanish, I didn't think I could go wrong.
What made the greatest impression on me, though, is that marijuana was not at all what
I had been told it was... it was no great scourge, it did not make you insane, it didn't
make you violent nor did it make you less inhibited than drinking alcohol.
Bottom line, I knew I had been lied to. Until that moment, I pretty much believed
everything I was told by people in positions of authority. I was no rebel. After
that moment, I questioned everything.
Before I continue, I do want to say that I believe there are many drugs and substances
that should be illegal, because they are nothing but harmful. Cocaine, heroine, crack,
amphetamines and designer drugs. (and you might want to know that young people don't think
ecstasy can be harmful - it's not like what they keep being told about these things - I
wonder if they understood the impact on their livers, would they take it so lightly?)
But when it comes to marijuana, when you actually trace its illegality, you'll find
that it was not made illegal because it is harmful. It is but one more way the
federal government has used propaganda to generate fear in order to create a feeling of
unity regarding an issue that is portrayed as a threat to the fabric of American society
(other people would call it the oldest trick in the book).
You can't fight something if you don't have an enemy. But, if you're a politician
leading a fight, people will rally around you. If you have control of the media and
the laws, it can turn into a grandiose thing like "the war on drugs". And so
certain politicians have, over the years, used it to that end. And it's easy to do
because there is truth to the need to prevent the distribution of illicit drugs,
particularly to young people.
By the way, if you think I am trying to rally people around a cause, like the
legalization of marijuana, you'd be wrong. I have a more consistent theme to my list
of causes: the truth. That's what I'm going to address next, concerning marijuana. The
The Truth About Marijuana
Marijuana did not become illegal because it was harmful to people. It became
illegal because of a zealot named Harry J. Anslinger. He lead a movement to ban marijuana
through scare tactics in a propaganda campaign many years ago.
Off the top of my head, I can remember studies and opinions during the administrations
of Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan (Reagan generally said
it's their business, not government's if people use it, and Nancy Reagan promoted a very
straight-forward "Say No To Drugs" Campaign that I thought was excellent) and
then, of course, there was Bill Clinton.
"Penalties against drug use should not be more damaging to an individual than use
of the drug itself. Nowhere is this more clear than in the laws against possession of
marijuana in private for personal use." President Jimmy Carter, August 2,
Of course, there was the report commissioned by Fiorello La Guardia, the governor of
New York from 1934-45. (Intro Report see
also Grass). That report included these findings
The lessening of inhibitions is not peculiar to marihuana, for in a few subjects who
were given alcohol in intoxicating doses the behavior corresponded to that induced by
After smoking the main effect was of a euphoric type. Some dizziness and dryness of the
mouth were generally present but were not pronounced enough to distract from the pleasant
sensations. The condition described as "high" came on promptly and increased
with the number of cigarettes smoked, but it was not alarming or definitely disagreeable,
and did not give rise to antisocial behavior.
On the contrary it prompted sociability. The marihuana was under the subject's control,
and once the euphoric state was present, which might come from only one cigarette, he had
no inclination to increase it by more smoking. When a considerable number of cigarettes
were smoked, the effect was usually one of drowsiness and fatigue.
The description of the "tea-pad parties" brings out clearly the convivial
effect on the groups and the absence of any rough or antagonistic behavior.
I particularly remember the Nixon report, which was ignored, because it cited that the
effects of marijuana are that it "gives the user a sense of well-being".
Otherwise, it cited no generally ill effects.
I remember it well because at the time, I was doing a radio show, and I parodied the
report based on the song "Scarborough Fair" by Simon and Garfunkel - you know,
Parsley, Sage Rosemary and Thyme... I joked that the FDA report on those herbs came to the
conclusion that "any substance in such wide use and that people enjoy so much
couldn't possibly be a good thing." I finished with the teaser "be listening
next time as we review the negative psycho-social impact of bubble bath".
It's not that I take it lightly. Like I say, I don't recommend that people use it any
more than I recommend that people drink alcohol. I just don't think it's wrong. What
is wrong is sending people to jail in order to facilitate a political agenda.
In the beginning...
Marijuana became a "controlled substance" after the Spanish-American War.
Mexicans who frequented the United States or who were migrant laborers brought it with
them when they came to work. On the East Coast, blacks, most notably black
musicians, specifically jazz musicians, were known to be users. What was originally
made illegal because of fraudulent claims by a zealot quickly became a means of
controlling a population of people, a tool of racism.
And the political powers along the way used the war on drugs to claim victory against a
horrible scourge so you'd trust them and vote for them again..
It's very similar to the way the INS is used to control illegal aliens in the U.S.
So long as foreigners, particularly Hispanics, are useful to our economy, and don't
make a fuss or expect to be treated like people with rights, they're allowed to stay.
Suddenly, one day, when politicians are criticized for immigration policy, you'll hear
about a round up of illegals. And, you'll hear little complaint, because these people have
no legal rights. It's a very convenient political manipulation.
As time went on, Anslinger became "the drug Czar", using the media and
propaganda to convince Americans that marijuana would "make you insane", that it
was a tool of Communism to ruin our young people, that the use of marijuana would
definitely lead to the use of harder drugs, that users would kill themselves and other
people, that buying it supported the Red Chinese in South Viet Nam, and now, the ultimate
threat, that purchasing marijuana supports terrorism.
It's just one more way to exploit 911 and terrorism to scare people into compliance and
support of a policy based on lies... relating marijuana to supporting terrorism (if this
logic is valid, then why does the Bush administration not embrace it regarding the
importation of oil and the sale of low gas mileage vehicles, such as SUV's?)
Marijuana is not a gateway drug
One of the biggest lies spread about marijuana is that it is a gateway drug. This
has not been proven. In fact, it has been disproved. In fact, cigarettes appear to be the
greatest gateway to all illicit drug use.
I can tell you myself that what encourages people to try harder drugs are 2 things:
1) If the government lies about marijuana, then they would lie about other drugs,
therefore, people are more willing to "see for themselves". It's part of why
marijuana users show up as stereotypical liberals: when you feel you've been lied to, it's
hard to take the liar at face-value. Therefore, you question things. It's simple human
2) The gateway to harder drugs is not marijuana, it's other people. When I think back
many years to the few times I took other drugs, I had no desire whatsoever to take other
drugs. The situation was simple. The person I bought marijuana from sold other drugs. It
was in his best interest for me to spend more money. OR, a friend who had tried some for
the same reasons would ask me if I wanted to try it.
Marijuana is no more a gateway drug than cigarettes leads to the use of chewing tobacco
or cigars. It is no more a gateway than the idea that drinking alcohol leads to the
over-eating of pretzels. It's nothing more than incorrect stereo-typical training
based on the science of "knowing how to push your buttons".
It's like thinking all marijuana smokers are bad, and that all Christians are fanatics
and all Muslims hate America. You could find lots of evidence to make the case if that's
what you wanted to do - if it served a purpose - but the statistics would prove the
It's like watching the news and seeing all the reports about child abduction as if the
problem is becoming huge, despite the fact that the incidence of child-abduction has been
going down. Child abductions - and crimes against children - are certainly occurring,
and are horrible occurrances. But the problem, as a whole, is not as pervasive as it might
Here's the truly bad news: ask the kids, they'll tell you that marijuana, and drugs in
general, are more available than alcohol and cigarettes. That should tell you something
about the value of regulation, and the efficacy of our drug and alcohol education
programs. I guarantee you, if you lie to young people and they find out, they will
rebel against authority. It's the simple story of the boy who cried wolf.
I don't know about these days, but I do remember years ago, when I was in high school,
the only time I recall buying marijuana myself was for an adult. They told me afterward
that the old rule of thumb was that if you moved to a new town and wanted to make a
connection, the best thing to do was make friends with a high school student.
"Alternatively, experience with and subsequent access to cannabis use may provide
individuals with access to other drugs as they come into contact with drug dealers. This
argument provided a strong impetus for the Netherlands to effectively decriminalize
cannabis use in an attempt to separate cannabis from the hard drug market. This strategy
may have been partially successful as rates of cocaine use among those who have used
cannabis are lower in the Netherlands than in the United States."
Source: Lynskey, Michael T., PhD, et al., "Escalation of Drug Use in
Early-Onset Cannabis Users vs Co-twin Controls," Journal of the American Medical
Association, Vol. 289 No. 4, January 22/29, 2003, online at http://jama.ama-assn.org/issues/v289n4/rfull/joc21156.html,
last accessed Jan. 31, 2003.
The Marijuana Culture
You might think that I'm in favor of blanket legalization. I'm going to
disappoint many marijuana smokers by telling you the opposite.
What comes to mind is the times in Soquel in the 70's when marijuana growers
perpetually had their crops stolen just before harvest time, and so they booby-trapped the
fields with machine guns with fatal results. I'm not saying you have to put up 20 foot
fences and such. What I'm pointing to is the need for responsible growth and dispensing.
What comes to mind is the times that military helicopters with machine guns were used
in the hills of Humboldt County in order to strafe meadows where children were playing in
order to "scare" the residents out of growing marijuana. It made it difficult to
tell the good guys from the bad guys.
What comes to mind is the arrest of people growing marijuana legally in Santa Cruz,
under state law, and city leaders who then dispensed marijuana for medicinal purposes in
defiance of John Ashcroft and the Department of Justice. Fortunately for the leaders of
Santa Cruz, and the seriously ill medicinal marijuana recipients, a major national news
station covered the event as they dispensed it.
Otherwise, they probably would have been arrested with as much misplaced glee as when
they arrested Tommy Chong (of Cheech and Chong) for conspiracy to sell paraphernalia.
What comes to mind is the prosecution under federal law of a marijuana grower - Ed
Rosenthal - in the San Francisco Bay area who was growing it under the legal authority of
Under Federal Law, the prosecutor could deny the introduction of evidence that would
show that the grower was in compliance with, and working in tandem with the local
government. He stood to serve 7 to 25 years. The jury was outraged when they found out the
truth afterward. He was finally sentenced to 1 day. (6/4/2003)
What also comes to mind is a culture of marijuana users who also must transform their
thinking. They've become so used to being a "don't ask don't tell" constituency,
that it's hard to imagine another way. And there's a genuine resentment toward
establishing marijuana as a profit center for large corporations, or sin taxes by the
government. There are concerns about quality, freshness and additives.
Over the years, I have met few people who used marijuana who were unwilling to consider
legalization and sale of marijuana with the same laws and controls as alcohol. I could
make all the same trite arguments about all the tax revenues and legitimate income and
jobs that marijuana could provide, but I too am tired of making the all too logical
arguments with people who would prefer to restrict other people to their own preferences.
I could say volumes about how the real control of marijuana would reduce its use by
The one issue that should decide the matter is the truth. Unfortunately, for all the
politicians who claim to have tried it without inhaling, the truth is far too confronting,
because it would expose a deception, and it would take courage to stand up against the
politically generated perception of this issue.
The part that disturbs me the most is the lie.
700,000 people a year are made into criminals because of a lie. That's the biggest
crime of all.
And that takes me back to William F. Buckley.
PBS Frontline: America's War on
The History of the
Non-Medical Use of Drugs in the United States by Charles Whitebread,
Professor of Law, USC Law School A Speech to the California Judges Association 1995 annual
Study: Teen anti-drug ads make impact The
difficulty is getting kids to see the ads and pay attention to them. A University of
Pennsylvania study released last year found the ads are largely ignored by teens. Kids who
see or hear anti-drug ads at least once a day are less likely to do drugs than youngsters
who don't see or hear ads frequently
Cigarette makers spending more on advertising The
industry spent $11.2 billion on advertising and promotions in 2001, the last year for
which such figures were available, according to the study by the Federal Trade Commission.
The spending marked a 17 percent increase over 2000, when the industry spent $9.6 billion.
Special Release 30 Years After
Nixon's Marijuana Commission Advocated Decriminalization, Report Findings Are
Still Valid Nixon Never Read His Own Report, President Bush Should
Marijuana Prisoner Denied Marinol
The Hip-Hop Action Network &
Russell Simmons Take on New York's Rockefeller Drug Laws
Drug War Facts
Corruption of Law Enforcement Officers
& Public Officials
12 Freed in Appeal of Texas Drug Busts A dozen
blacks jailed in a series of small-town drug busts that were based on the now-discredited
testimony of a single undercover agent were freed on bail Monday pending appeals. Forty-six people, 39 of whom are black, were arrested and
accused of possessing cocaine following an 18-month undercover operation in the Texas
Panhandle town by Tom Coleman, now under indictment on perjury charges
Hemp is Not Marijuana
as Medicine: A smoldering debate moves mainstream
George McMahon's Home Page:
Welcome to my home page. I am the 5th legal medical marijuana recipient in the United
States. Since March of 1990, I have been receiving a monthly prescription for medical
marijuana from the federal government. At the current time, there are only eight of us
Hip-Hop Mogul Simmons Under Inquiry for Lobbying
The commission is looking into whether Simmons and others, including former Clinton
cabinet secretary Andrew Cuomo and former gubernatorial candidate Thomas Golisano, spent
more than $2,000 to influence state officials. Anyone spending over $2,000 to lobby the
state government must register with the commission and make periodic financial
disclosures. The lobbying watchdog is also checking to see if Simmons gave an illegal gift
of a free helicopter ride to Secretary of State Randy Daniels last week, Grandeau said.
State officials are not allowed to accept gifts worth more than $75. Simmons is part of a
coalition that has been working to convince New York's state legislature to relax the
so-called Rockefeller drug laws
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